Saturday, October 17, 2015

Can China and South Korea Capitalize on Their Cultural Connections?

Jin Kai,

Despite a shared background in Confucianism, these cultural traditions are interpreted differently in China and Korea.

uncaptioned image from article


The current regional power structure may hinder a further political aligning of China and South Korea, but it does not stop public diplomacy between these two neighbors. In fact, the ever-expanding connections between these two countries, particularly non-governmental connections, have provided many possibilities.

According to Beijing News, there are more than 1,000 flights travelling between China and South Korea every week. That level of people-to-people exchange certainly could bring about an extraordinarily large complex of networks among not only governmental officials, but also scholars, businessmen, travelers, and others that share common knowledge, experiences and also interests in their respective domains. The problem, if any, lies in the ever-changing political climate in this region, and the political will of the leaders from both sides.

Although both countries may certainly find a way to expand the significance of the shared cultural values and traditions in their bilateral relations, it won’t be easy for them to forge an epistemic community based on cultural traditions, including Confucian values. However, when China emphasizes its relationships with neighboring countries, the key terms it advocates are “community of common destiny” and “community of common interests,” suggesting that destiny and interests can be shared – even while political cultures and developmental models can differ. To use another Chinese mantra: seek common ground while reserving differences.

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